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Swim, Shark, Swim

Swim, Shark, Swim

Swim, Shark, Swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim, Shark, Swim

Dom Conlon

Anastasia Izlesou

CSIRO Publishing, 2022 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781486316045

The sun shines down on the West Australian ocean, highlighting the shape of a blacktip reef shark just below the surface.  But when a boat drops a net the shark knows he has to “open a tunnel of bubbles and swim, Shark, SWIM.”

And off he goes, on a trip around the world searching for the place he calls home, meeting other sharks and sea creatures during the journey, some friendly and others, not-so. 

While blacktips do not normally migrate as this one does, it offers an opportunity for readers to meet various species of sharks around the world, sharks which , as the apex predators, keep the ocean waters in balance by helping maintain the diversity rather than the dominance of one creature. With lyrical text and arresting illustrations, young readers can learn to respect the creatures of the deep and unknown rather than fearing them because their only knowledge is sensational news stories, scary movies and sinister music.  Building knowledge through information rather than imagination develops understanding much more effectively. 

Accompanied by comprehensive teachers’ notes for Years 2-5 that will build an even greater understanding of the planet’s different marine habitats, their inhabitants and their particular characteristics, this is a book that celebrates the natural world and encourages students to delve deeper than the surface.  Makes me wish I was still allowed to dive – so many of my hours have passed well below the sun’s sparkle and I miss it.

 

 

Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig: Where's George's Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa Pig: Where’s George’s Dinosaur?

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2022

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9780241543542

George is looking for Mr Dinosaur but he can’t find him anywhere and he’s distressed.  So Mummy Pig suggests they retrace their steps through the day, but no matter how promising things look, what’s revealed under the flap is not Mr Dinosaur.

In a book reminiscent of the advertisement for a particular brand of car in which a family retraces their steps in search of Gonzo the missing toy rabbit, little ones can not only follow George’s search as they resonate with his rising distress but they learn that there can be a logical sequence of events to follow rather than throwing a tantrum. So that when they misplace something, parents can draw on George’s experience to guide them in theirs.

Again, the use of a familiar plot, favourite characters and a lift-the-flap technique mean the book will engage even our youngest readers and those crucial concepts about the value of print will continue to develop.  There’s something special about quietly observing Mr Nearly 3 taking himself off to a quiet spot and retelling himself the story using his own vocabulary as he recounts George’s adventures.  But there was also something disconcerting when at the conclusion he said, “I bet his mum put it there out of her bag,” suggesting that maybe he had been exposed to that advertisement once too often!

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008470289

A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it. 

Outstanding. 

 

Pax

Pax

Pax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax

Sara Pennepacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2017

298pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008158286

War is coming and Peter’s father is answering the call to arms. But first he must deliver Peter to his grandfather’s care 300 miles away and before that, they must return the fox that has been Peter’s pet since it was a kit to the wild.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable since Peter found him, his mother killed by a car (as was Peter’s and their friendship has helped him come to terms with his anger and grief as his father dealt with his) and  his siblings having starved to death, so to abandon Pax to the wild  is heart-breaking.  But while Peter sort of understands why, Pax is bewildered when the car roars off while he is searching for a beloved toy Peter has thrown…

And so begins one of the most heart-warming, heart-wrenching stories of the love between human and animal that I’ve read for a long time. Told in alternating chapters between them, we follow Pax’s gradual adaptation to his new surroundings as he slowly comes to accept that Peter is not coming back, at the same time as we follow Peter’s journey back from his grandfather’s home determined to find him and reunite.  Neither feels whole without the other.  The author worked closely with an expert in fox behaviour, and as well as celebrating that limitless affinity that a child can have with an animal, tame or wild, she uses the two-voice perspective to explore and explain the issues in the story.

This is one for independent readers, or even a class read-aloud, with much to consider and discuss.  At the end of it, Pennepacker was not going to write another novel but eventually she did.  That book is  a sequel to this one – Pax: the Journey Home  – and it was receiving that to review that had me requesting Pax.  I am so glad I did. 

 

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

Jaclyn Moriarty

Kelly Candy

A & U Children, 2021

432oo,, hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781760526368

Even though his stepdad was seen dropping him off at school each morning, Oscar didn’t seem to make it through the school gates and Deputy Principal Kugelhopf is demanding a written explanation.

But how can you explain that you were on a quest  to locate nine separate pieces of a key, held by nine separate people, in order to unlock a gluggy silver spell that had trapped the Elven city of Dun-sorey-lo-vay-lo-hey? That the quest was an urgent one because Friday at noon, the spell would become permanent, the Elves would be crushed to death and Oscar would be trapped in this magical world forever? That, even though you’re just a regular non-magical kid who likes to skateboard, your companions were Bronte, a girl who makes magical ‘Spellbinding’ rings, Alejandro, a former pirate/current prince who can shoot arrows and make fire from stones, Imogen, who can read broken maps and is a kickboxing master, Esther, who saved her entire world from some kind of ancient monster, Astrid, a smart ten year old who can read minds, and Gruffudd, a surprisingly speedy (and always hungry) Elf?

But, between himself and Imogen, Oscar manages to recount the adventures and from them emerges the fourth book in the Kingdoms and Empires series, a whimsical fantasy series for independent readers . While there are lots of illustrations, this is one for the older reader who enjoys fantasy and is perhaps looking for a new series to explore if they haven’t already discovered it. 

The Curse of the Vampire Robot

The Curse of the Vampire Robot

The Curse of the Vampire Robot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of the Vampire Robot

Graeme Base

HarperCollins, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781460754696

Deep in the Scottish Highlands, many years from now …

Gertie Gif, a lowly cleaning droid from the village of Loch Lan, sets out on an heroic quest to liberate her fellow robo-folk from the curse of a legendary, battery-draining laptop who lives in the castle on the hill.

Will Gertie and her little software-wolf companion succeed in cleaning out the vampire’s corrupted heart?

Or will the Curse of Voltoid remain forever hanging over the valley?

In this new release from the amazing Base, he combines an old-fashioned tale of good versus evil with 21st century techno-speak to produce an intriguing, clever story that marries the very old with the very latest.   In a castle high on a hill overlooking the valley dwells the dreaded Voltoid , “a giant laptop, black as night, with wings and pointy teeth” who sweeps down into the village to drain the resident robots of their power in order to recharge his own. Then, as in true tales of old, an unlikely hero volunteers to confront the enemy and in in clever rhyming text, an epic encounter ensues.

“In time, the tale become a myth and finally a meme

with feature films and merchandise…

A total data stream. 

Deviating from his familiar full-colour illustrations, this time Base has kept to black and white but with the typical exquisite detail that make his illustrations as rich as both the concept and the text.  This is one for more mature readers who can appreciate the subtlety of the words and the connections between them and the pictures. 

So much food for thought…                              

The School between Winter and Fairyland

The School between Winter and Fairyland

The School between Winter and Fairyland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The School between Winter and Fairyland

Heather Fawcett

Allen & Unwin, 2021

352pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760526542

“Twelve-year-old Autumn is a beastkeeper at Inglenook School for Magicians, which she secretly dreams of attending as a student. Instead, she must care for Inglenook’s menagerie of dangerous creatures so the king’s future monster hunters can study them. But when she isn’t mucking out the griffin stalls, Autumn searches for clues about her twin brother’s mysterious disappearance. Everyone else thinks that he was devoured by the terrifying Hollow Dragon, but Autumn isn’t so sure.

Enter Cai Morrigan, the famous young magician prophesied to one day destroy the Hollow Dragon. When Cai comes to Autumn with a secret problem, Autumn agrees to help on one condition: that the ‘Chosen One’ join her quest to find her brother. Together they uncover the dark truth that lies at the heart of Inglenook School – because every school has its secrets…”

This is one for independent readers who are established readers of fantasy, like Miss 10, but who still like to straddle the worlds of reality and magic.  Autumn is one who Miss 10 can relate to, perhaps even put herself in her shoes, and the familiar themes of adventure, family, friendship and self-discovery blend seamlessly with the magical creatures who inhabit a world as cleverly constructed as Hogwarts.  While the foundations of the story are shared with other stories – the traditional tropes on which fantasy for this age is based and why they are so popular- this is a solid read that will have readers looking for a sequel.  In the meantime they could indulge themselves in Fawcett’s other books, Ember and the Ice Dragons , a story about a young dragon turned into a human girl to save her life, or The Language of Ghosts about a young princess in exile who rediscovers a forgotten magic. All three may appear in Miss 10’s Christmas stocking. 

Max Booth Future Sleuth – Map Trap

Max Booth Future Sleuth - Map Trap

Max Booth Future Sleuth – Map Trap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Booth Future Sleuth – Map Trap

Cameron Macintosh

Dave Atze 

Big Sky, 2021

125pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781922265906

If you have a map, you must know where you’re going… but Max isn’t so sure. 

It’s 2424. Super Sleuth Max Booth is uncovering the secrets of 20th century gadgets with his faithful but slightly neurotic robodog, Oscar. There are sinister characters and challenges along the way.  So, when Max and his brainy beagle-bot, Oscar, find a 400-year-old navigation unit, they’re shocked to discover that it still seems to work. They trace its owner’s last journey and find themselves on the road to very big trouble!

Far from home, Max and Oscar cross paths with a bunch of bungling burglars, trying to zip away with a precious piece of old-tech art. Max and Oscar will need to map out a rapid plan to catch the thieves and navigate their way out of danger!

This is the 6th in this series that follow the adventures of 25th-century detective, Max, and his robo-dog, Oscar, as they investigate objects from the ancient past – the long-lost 20th and 21st centuries.  Written for younger capable readers who enjoy sci-fi, but appreciate the connection to their own world to keep the story and their understanding grounded., it also offers opportunities for reflection about how we live and the things we use and do and how these might be viewed in the future. Fast-paced, it offers something different that might open up the world and genre of sci-fi for young readers who aren’t yet ready for the plethora of post-apocalypse literature that is becoming so prevalent in YA lit these days. 

A series to recommend to those who enjoy adventure mixed with science.

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Colin Hoston

Yujia Wang

HarperCollins, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780063002418

After losing someone, special, Fei Fei a bright young girl fueled with determination and a passion for science, builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess who may hold the answers  to her questions.  There she ends up on the adventure of a lifetime and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures. 

Based on the Netflix original animated film, this picture books retells the story of Over the Moon. Based on a classic Chinese myth, it is a timeless tale of keeping the faith, keeping the love and embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.  Young readers will enjoy reliving Fei Fei’s adventures long after the screen image has faded with its simple, direct text and stunning illustrations, and perhaps encourage them to move on to the novelisation.. 

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Denis Knight & Cristy Burne

Lothian Children’s, 2021

250pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 9780734420190 

Wednesday Weeks never wanted to be a sorcerer’s apprentice. She’d rather study science than magic. But when her cloak-wearing, staff-wielding grandpa is captured by a power-hungry goblin king, Wednesday must find a way to embrace her magical heritage and rescue him from the dreaded Tower of Shadows.

Luckily, she’s not alone. Her best friend Alfie is a prime-number fan and robotics expert who’s all-in on Wednesday’s epic plan involving parallel universes, swords of power, and a wise-cracking talking skull.

But it’s going to take more than science, magic, and the world’s cutest robot to take down this bad guy. Because the goblin king is playing for the ultimate prize – and Wednesday and Alfie just walked into his trap…

In a world of magic, can science save the day?

Independent readers who love a story that combines magic and science with great adventure will adore this new series that does just that.  Drawing on the skills of Knight who loves science fiction and fantasy, and Burne who loves science and who has a mission to ” blend STEM and creativity to enthuse, engage and empower” this is a story featuring a smart, feisty female and her best friend who find themselves having to use real-life science to save themselves from the predicament they get into as they travel the Nine Realms, inspiring the reader to perhaps take a greater interest themselves.  This is made possible with the addition of a few activities included at the end of the book and with several more in the teachers’ resources, it is an ideal story to promote to your science and maths enthusiasts. 

Described as being perfect for those who love  Nevermoor, Artemis Fowl and The Witching Hours, the even better news is that Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny, the second in the series, will be out in September, so not long to wait.